Harriet Tubman Coins Are Released by U.S. Mint

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As the yearslong process to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill continues, Americans can now buy coins bearing her portrait.

The U.S. Mint announced on Wednesday that three new commemorative Tubman coins were available for preorder starting Thursday and would begin shipping in February.

The new coins — a gold $5, a silver dollar and a half dollar — celebrate the bicentennial of the abolitionist’s birthday.

President Biden signed legislation to create the coins in August 2022. It was introduced by Representative Gregory W. Meeks, Democrat of New York, during Black History Month in February 2020.

“As a crucial conductor in the underground railroad, she created a beacon of hope for slaves who fled from the undignified cruelty of human bondage,” Rep. Meeks said in a news release at the time. “Congress can and should honor her on the bicentennial of her birthday with this commemorative coin,” he added.

Ms. Tubman, born in 1822, was one of the foremost leaders of the abolitionist movement who, after escaping slavery, helped free enslaved people through what was known as the Underground Railroad. During the Civil War, she helped the Union recruit Black soldiers.

The coin designs were released by the U.S. Mint in July. The price of each coin carries a surcharge (added to its face value) that will go to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati and the Harriet Tubman Home, Inc., a nonprofit that manages her homestead in Auburn, N.Y., part of Harriet Tubman National Historical Park.

The $5 coin carries a surcharge of $35. It features a post-Civil War portrait of Ms. Tubman and has seven of her core values inscribed on the reverse: faith, freedom, family, community, self-determination, social justice and equality, according to the U.S. Mint.

The $1 coin, which shows a stately Ms. Tubman extending her hand on the obverse side, carries a $10 surcharge; the half-dollar coin, featuring a full-body portrait of Ms. Tubman on the reverse side, has a $5 surcharge.

The final price of each coin covers the face value, the surcharge and manufacturing and other overhead costs. A set including each of the three coins is listed for $836.25 on the Mint website. A single half-dollar coin is listed for $47.

Though the new coins are intended to be collectors’ items and are not minted for general circulation, they are still legal tender and represent the best chance for Ms. Tubman’s likeness to appear on U.S. currency anytime soon.

The effort to print a redesigned $20 bill replacing the portrait of President Andrew Jackson with that of Ms. Tubman has been delayed for years.

The Obama administration set a 2020 deadline to unveil the redesign, but in 2019, Steven Mnuchin, then the Treasury secretary, announced that the deadline would not be met because of a technical delay involving security features on the bill.

In 2021, Jen Psaki, then the White House press secretary, said the Treasury Department would study ways to speed up the process of adding Ms. Tubman’s portrait to the $20 bill. That same year, two senators urged the Treasury secretary, Janet L. Yellen, in a letter to make the redesign a priority.

“We hope sincerely that is no longer the case, and encourage the prioritization of Ms. Tubman before working on other redesigns,” Senators Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire, and Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, wrote.

Ms. Yellen said in late 2022 that work to place Ms. Tubman on the bill was still underway.

A new $20 note is now scheduled to be issued in 2030.



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